This post is the second installment in a two part series. Check out last week’s post here.
Thanks to modern technology, the field of cellular neuroscience has become illuminated with brightly colored images – tissue samples, cells, and individual molecules have been stained, photographed, colorized, and even reconstructed in three dimensions. A Google Image search quickly provides thousands of examples, and a walk through the research wing in IU’s Multidisciplinary Sciences Building II is no different. The images that IU neuroscientists have collected are proudly displayed on posters and signs that line the hallways.
However, the field of neuroscience hasn’t always been so bright. Before the late 1800s, scientists could look at samples of brain tissue through the lens of a microscope, but there was no way to pick out individual brain cells, or neurons, from the background–the detailed structure of individual neurons was essentially invisible. That all changed when Camillo Golgi, an Italian biologist, developed a technique that he called “the black reaction.” He found a way to stain entire neurons black against a brown background. For the first time, neuroscientists were able to see individual neurons. His technique, now called Golgi histology, was quickly adopted by Spanish scientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who created the first maps of how neurons are organized in the brain. (more…)